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Lauren Kessler

The Write Path – Excerpt

Labor or Leisure?

You can never tell when a writer is working

What is work to a writer?  This is not a question we’d ask if we were contemplating the daily efforts of a plumber or a sales clerk, a barista or a lawyer, a carpenter, a nurse, or a bus driver.  That work is visible and self-evident.  It happens in front of us, straightforward, understandable. The plumber unclogs a drain.  The clerk rings up a sale.  The barista pulls a shot.

But what of the writer?

Thumb tacked to a shelf above my computer, in my writing room, is a file card on which I have scrawled a quote from Wallace Stevens.  Stevens was a successful New York lawyer and a big-time insurance company executive before he began the much harder work of becoming a Pulitzer prize-winning poet.

Here’s the line:

“It is not always easy to tell the difference between thinking and looking out the window.”

Writing is thinking, or thinking made manifest; thoughts ordered, set down, crafted, honed and polished.  So what Stevens is really saying, or what he is saying to me, every day, many times a day, when I look up at this quote is:  It is not easy to tell when a writer is working. Whew. That’s a relief.  Because if you were here right now watching me work, this is what you’d see:

Me looking out the window.

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